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The Readout Damian Garde

23andMe moves into clinical trial recruitment

Consumer genetics giant 23andMe is doing a lot more than DNA testing these days.

The Silicon Valley company announced Thursday that it is partnering with TrialSpark, a tech-powered contract research organization, to move much deeper into the business of clinical trial recruitment. What does that mean? In short: Using the data 23andMe collects to connect customers with nearby study sites based on their diseases, demographics, and DNA.

Although the company was tightlipped about details of the arrangement, STAT's Rebecca Robbins reports, it may stand to make some serious money by charging drug makers to serve up information about clinical trials they're sponsoring.

Read more.

Maybe drug pricing isn’t so bipartisan after all

Since roughly Jan. 20, 2017, it’s been a truism that lowering the cost of prescription drugs was perhaps the only thing that united Republicans, Democrats, and President Trump. Yesterday’s House committee meeting on the topic suggests the story is a bit more complicated.

As STAT’s Nicholas Florko reports, a discussion of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s plan to lower drug prices threw the Energy & Commerce Committee into partisan chaos, as Republicans accused Democrats of sabotaging bipartisan efforts to force through more strident reforms. There was also bickering and name-calling.

This is all happening the shadow of a looming impeachment inquiry, which, among many implications, could distract lawmakers and delay action on any new drug pricing legislation.

Read more.

What’s bad for pharma is good for biotech

You may not have realized this, but we are living at a time of peak dealmaking. The analysts at SVB Leerink looked at a decade of biopharma buyouts, a full $714 billion worth, and concluded that the industry has reached a 10-year zenith when it comes to acquiring things.

What’s particularly interesting is that, in parsing about 175 historic deals, the analysts spotted a trend: There’s a negative correlation between organic growth and dealmaking. That means buyouts tend to be scarce when drug companies are thriving and abundant when they’re stagnant.

Surveying the landscape of multinational drug giants, things lean more toward stagnation than growth, which suggests to SVB Leerink that the pace of buyouts is unlikely to slow down.

Another vote for government-made generics

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has endorsed an idea that has thus far united some disparate thinkers: Let the government manufacture generics.

Corbyn explained the notion in a white paper called Medicines for the Many, which outlines what Labour would do if it won control of the U.K. The basic idea is that the generics market is rife with price-fixing, collusion, and gouging, problems that could be solved by a taxpayer-funded manufacturer that could provide off-brand drugs on the cheap.

If it sounds familiar, that’s perhaps because Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a similar proposal last year, although her idea would have the government manufacture pills only in cases of shortages or monopolistic price increases, like the one that made Martin Shkreli famous.

What’s interesting is that Shkreli himself thinks it’s a fine idea. “I think the government should start a drug company,” he told Fox Business in 2017, arguing that generic drugs were essentially utilities and ought to be regulated as such.

Please stop saying ‘innovation’

Perhaps you’ve heard this before: Any idea meant to curb the cost of medicine would also impact the incentive to treat disease, and that, unforgivably, would harm innovation.

Writing in STAT, a pair of Rutgers academics found scores of examples of the drug industry invoking the sacred I word to fight legislation on pay-for-delay settlements, patent rights, cost-containment, and pricing disclosure. And that, according to Michael Carrier and Genevieve Tung, is getting old.

“Big Pharma has cried Innovation Wolf every time Congress seeks to address its shenanigans,” they write. “And the legislators keep coming to defend them. That has to stop. It is past time for the industry to be called to account on using its get-out-of-jail-free innovation card to avoid reasonable legislation.”

Read more.

More reads

  • California reports pharma increased list prices way above inflation. (STAT Plus)
  • BioNTech sets terms for $251 million US IPO valuing immuno-oncology biotech at $4.5 billion. (Renaissance Capital)
  • Survey finds 60 percent of Mass. biotech workers would change job to get a better commute. (Boston Globe)
  • As tariffs affect the pharma industry, business strategies must evolve. (STAT)

Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow,

Thursday, September 26, 2019


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